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The Complete Guide to Installing Windows 11 on VirtualBox

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Hey there! Have you heard about Windows 11, the latest version of Microsoft‘s operating system? It introduces some big changes like a revamped visual design, Android app support, and new multitasking tools.

Naturally, you must be wondering: should I upgrade to Windows 11? Is it worth it yet or too buggy?

Well, I‘m here to tell you that trying Windows 11 is a breeze with VirtualBox. You can install it in a virtual machine to safely evaluate the new OS without disrupting your current system.

In this guide, I‘ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step. I‘ve been testing Windows 11 for months as a cloud engineer and tech enthusiast. I‘ll share my insights from hands-on use so you can decide if upgrading is right for you.

Let‘s get started! This is what I‘ll cover:

  • Benefits of using VirtualBox for Windows 11
  • Downloading Windows 11 ISO and VirtualBox
  • Creating the virtual machine
  • Installing Windows 11 in the VM
  • Tweaking Windows 11 for best VM performance
  • My opinions of Windows 11 so far

Why Try Windows 11 on VirtualBox?

VirtualBox lets you run Windows 11 (and other OSes) in isolated virtual machines on your current PC. This gives major advantages over dual-booting or clean installing on hardware:

It‘s completely safe – Windows 11 can‘t mess with your files or programs in the VM. Crashes only affect the virtual "computer".

You stay in control – Don‘t like Windows 11? Delete the VM and revert to your old OS instantly.

Hardware flexibility – You can configure the VM with as much (or little) RAM, cores, and disk space as needed.

Test drive before committing – Get a feel for Windows 11 before deciding on upgrading your real machine.

Based on chatter among my fellow techies, here are some top reasons for checking out Windows 11 on VirtualBox:

  • See if performance gains and new features are worthwhile
  • Test compatibility with your essential apps
  • Make sure your workflow isn‘t disrupted
  • Confirm hardware and drivers will function properly
  • Wait until bugs are fixed in later updates
  • Avoid irreversible changes to your main OS

For me, reversing changes is the big one. I can freely poke around Windows 11 with zero lasting impact on my stable Windows 10 setup.

Obviously, running an OS in a VM is slower than on physical hardware. But for evaluation purposes, it gets the job done.

Later I‘ll share some tips to improve Windows 11‘s usability in a virtual machine.

First, let‘s get Windows 11 and VirtualBox installed…

Download Windows 11 ISO File

To install Windows 11, you‘ll need an ISO image containing the operating system files. Here‘s how to get it:

  1. Go to Microsoft‘s Windows 11 download page.

  2. Under "Select Edition", pick Windows 11 (duh).

  3. Click "Download Now" below "Disc Image (ISO)".

  4. Choose your preferred language when prompted.

  5. Save the roughly 5 GB .ISO file somewhere easy to access later.

The download may take a while depending on your internet speeds. For me, it took around 15 minutes on my 100 Mbps connection.

You‘ll use this ISO later to install Windows 11 in the virtual machine. But first we need to get VirtualBox…

Install Oracle VM VirtualBox

VirtualBox by Oracle is free virtualization software that runs nicely on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris hosts. I like it because it‘s highly customizable and not too hard to configure.

If you already have VirtualBox installed, skip to the next section. If not:

  1. Visit the VirtualBox downloads page.

  2. Select your platform (usually Windows hosts or macOS hosts).

  3. Download and run the VirtualBox installer. Use default options.

  4. Open VirtualBox to verify it‘s working properly.

With VirtualBox installed, we‘re ready to set up a virtual machine specifically for Windows 11.

Create a Windows 11 Virtual Machine

Here we‘ll configure a new VM in VirtualBox tailored for Windows 11. I aim to meet or exceed the minimum system requirements:

  • Processor: 1 GHz or faster, 2+ cores on 64-bit CPU
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB or larger
  • TPM version 2.0
  • Secure boot capable
  • DirectX 12 / WDDM 2.x

Follow these steps:

  1. Open VirtualBox, click "New" in the upper left.

  2. Give the VM a name like "Windows 11". Set the save location.

  3. For type and version, select "Microsoft Windows" and "Windows 11 (64-bit)".

  4. Boost RAM to at least 4 GB. I recommend 8 GB or higher.

  5. Set a virtual disk size of at least 64 GB. Dynamic allocation works fine.

  6. Adjust other settings as desired and create the VM.

Pro tip: For best performance, go above the minimum requirements. I configured my Windows 11 VM with:

  • 8 GB RAM
  • 4 CPU cores
  • 128 MB video memory
  • 80 GB virtual disk

This gives me plenty of room to install programs and files within Windows 11. The experience is quite smooth!

Now we can install Windows 11 itself into the virtual machine.

Install Windows 11 in VirtualBox

With VirtualBox running, it‘s time to mount our ISO and launch the Windows 11 installer:

  1. Right-click your new VM, select Settings.

  2. Under Storage, click the empty CD/DVD drive icon.

  3. Choose your Windows 11 ISO file.

  4. Click OK, then Start to boot the VM.

  5. The Windows 11 installer will initialize. Click Next and accept the terms.

  6. On the product key page, choose "I don‘t have a product key" to proceed.

  7. Select Custom: Install Windows only on the next screen.

  8. Choose your virtual hard disk drive and click Next.

Installation takes 10-15 minutes depending on your host computer hardware. Eventually you‘ll reach the desktop to configure first-time settings:

  • Pick privacy options

  • Set up Windows Security

  • Enable/disable activity history

  • Select light or dark theme

Take time to personalize Windows 11 how you like. It functions just like the real deal within the VM!

Bypassing Windows 11 Requirements

Now for a technical tidbit. Microsoft imposed strict hardware requirements on Windows 11, including:

  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0
  • Secure boot capable
  • Specific CPU generation

VirtualBox VMs don‘t meet these by default. To sneak past the limitations:

  1. Open Registry Editor within Windows 11 setup.

  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup\LabConfig.

  3. Create BypassTPMCheck, BypassRAMCheck, and BypassSecureBootCheck values set to 1.

This tricks Windows 11 into thinking your VM meets the system requirements. A little shady, but it works! You can remove the keys after installation.

With Windows 11 fully set up in VirtualBox, let‘s look at optimizing the experience.

Tweaking Windows 11 for Best VirtualBox Performance

Due to the virtualized environment, Windows 11 will never run as fast as on a physical PC. But we can tweak settings to improve its usability:

  • Allocate sufficient resources – RAM, CPU cores, video memory, etc.

  • Install VirtualBox guest additions – Provides special drivers and functionality.

  • Enable 3D acceleration – Support for DirectX 9 is built-in.

  • Use VM storage on an SSD – Faster than a hard disk drive.

  • Set display resolution to 1080p or lower – Higher res taxes resources.

  • Disable fancy visual effects – Animations require more GPU power.

  • Close other programs before launching the VM – Conserve host resources.

  • Update Windows 11 and drivers – Bug fixes and optimizations.

  • Disable Windows Defender temporarily – The antivirus eats CPU cycles.

  • Set processor time cap to ~90% – Prevent host lockup if VM maxes out CPU.

With some strategic tweaking, I was able to make Windows 11 very useable on my 2018 Dell laptop. The OS feels snappy despite being virtualized.

Now for the big question: is Windows 11 worth upgrading to? Let‘s discuss…

Should You Upgrade to Windows 11? My Opinions

I‘ve been evaluating Windows 11 for a few months now on both VirtualBox and physical hardware. Here are some key insights from my experience:

Performance

  • Boot time is marginally faster on my devices

  • Responsiveness feels on par with Windows 10

  • Gaming framerates are about the same

  • Resource utilization is slightly lower overall

Verdict: A small speed boost but nothing revolutionary

Interface

  • Rounded corners and centered taskbar icons

  • Seamless window snap layouts

  • New start menu lacks live tiles

  • Settings app replaced control panel

  • Launcher menu with quick app search

Verdict: Visual overhaul but may require adjustment

Features

  • Android apps via Amazon store (beta)

  • Teams integration for personal accounts

  • Enhanced touchscreen and stylus support

  • Auto HDR for gaming (select titles)

  • Widgets with news, weather, and sports

Verdict: Some nice new goodies but not a dramatic leap

Stability

  • No show-stopping bugs in my usage

  • Certain apps need compatibility updates

  • Driver issues more prominent at launch

  • Fewer cumulative patches released so far

Verdict: Acceptable at launch but room for improvements

Security

  • TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot requirements

  • Enhanced ransomware protection

  • Mandatory Microsoft accounts for Home edition

  • Controversial data collection practices

Verdict: Benefits for business use but some privacy concerns

Bottom Line

Windows 11 delivers incremental improvements over Windows 10 but lacks a compelling reason for consumers to rush into upgrading. Enterprise adoption will be faster thanks to the security features.

I suggest most people wait 6-12 months for Microsoft to smooth out bugs and build up the app ecosystem. Try it in VirtualBox first before committing your main OS.

For power users, Windows 11 is ready to daily drive today. Just be prepared for a slight learning curve as you adapt to the changes.

Hopefully sharing my hands-on experiences gives you a better idea of what Windows 11 offers. I‘m happy to answer any other questions you have!

Final Thoughts

Thanks for following along this Windows 11 VirtualBox tutorial! To recap:

  • Run Windows 11 in a VM to safely evaluate the OS

  • VirtualBox makes setting up the virtual machine easy

  • Tweak VM settings to improve Windows 11‘s usability

  • Consider waiting for updates before upgrading your main OS

While not perfect, Windows 11 shows promise for the future. And installing it in VirtualBox allows you to preview the operating system on your terms.

I hope this guide was useful for understanding the process. Don‘t hesitate to reach out if you need help getting Windows 11 up and running.

Ready to take the new OS for a spin? I wish you luck with your VirtualBox adventures!

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